Toyota Maintenance: CV Axle Replacement on 3rd Generation 4Runners and Tacomas

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By: Jeff Bathke - 5/2005

This article applies to '96-'02 (3rd generation) Toyota 4Runners and 1st generation Tacomas. The replacement of a front axle (half-shaft) can be done by most home mechanics. I've seen the parts and labor for this procedure easily add up over $500 if done at a dealership. In contrast, most car parts stores will supply a replacement half-shaft for a little more than $100 as long as you return your used axle to them. Please read through the instructions first to make sure you understand them and that you have all the tools available. These are detailed steps to make things easier for you.

A couple of CV axles

Replacing a CV axle is required if one of the CV joint boots split, if one of the joints or axles was broken while off-roading, or simply from wear if one of the CV joints is clicking loudly while 4 wheel drive is engaged. In any of these cases, a car parts store should accept your old axle as a "core" return when you buy a new axle from them. Left and right axles are identical and interchangeable.


1) Make sure the vehicle is in park or in gear with the parking brake firmly set. Chock the wheels to ensure it wont move. Dont jack it into the air until step 4.

2) On whichever side youll be replacing the axle, disconnect the swaybar endlink on just that side so the wheel will later be able to fully droop.

3) While still on the ground, barely loosen that wheels lug nuts.

4) Jack up the vehicle and support the frame securely on a jack stand. You'll soon be prying and pounding on the vehicle while it's in the air, so you need to be confident that it's secure.

5) Remove the wheel.

6) If you have aftermarket manual hubs, jump to step 12. If you have the stock ADD/permanent flanges continue to step 7.

For Stock ADD/permanent hub flanges:
7) Using a flathead screwdriver, work the large black dust cap off the end of the hub. This is best done by tapping on the end of the screwdriver as you work around the cap to pry it off.

8) Using a pliers, bend the safety cotter pin straight. Pull out the cotter pin and the star-shaped lock cap.

9) In order to remove the hub nut, youll need a friend to sit inside and stand on the brakes. The hub nut torque is spec'ed to 174 ft-lbs at the factory, which is a LOT. This nut requires a 35mm socket and a hefty torque bar or impact wrench for removal. The thread direction is "normal", so you loosen it counter-clockwise. Left and right axles are identical. Tip: A few years ago I had a very hard time finding a true 35mm socket. The only place I ever found one was at a Checker Auto Parts store. Note that a 1 3/8" socket might also fit this nut, although itll probably be a tight fit since itll be 0.003" too small.

10) Congrats on removing the nut. All that holds the axle in place in the spindle now are splines. Use a hammer to hit on the end of the axle to loosen it from the splines in the hub assembly. Just loosen it now -- it wont come all the way out. Tip: The stock ADD/permanent flange basically uses a semi-floater design, so the outer CV is absolutely necessary to be in place to hold the hub/spindle against the wheel bearings. Do not drive without the outer CV properly bolted into place to hold everything together!

11) Jump down to step number 16.

For aftermarket manual hubs, continue here from step 6:
Step 12 remove nuts at base of manual hub
Step 14 remove snap ring on axle
12) Remove the six 12mm nuts and washers at the base of the manual hub.

13) Pull the manual hub straight off the tip of the axle. (If you broke the axle's outer stub shaft, it'll probably fall out here).

14) Remove the snap ring from the tip of the axle. Also remove the splined washer that's behind the snap ring.

15) The axle can now partially slide out of the spindle and hub, but not all the way. Continue to the next step. Tip: The manual hub design is a full-floater design, so if absolutely necessary, it is possible to drive around without the outer CV in place, although dirt would eventually contaminate the wheel bearings inside the spindle. In contrast, it is not possible to drive without the outer CV in place with the stock ADD/permanent flanges.

For either kind of hub:
Step 16
16) If you have stock upper IFS control arms, place the stock bottle jack up-side-down on the nut that's above the upper ball joint. The base of the jack should be flat against the top of the wheel well. Crank the jack so the upper arm moves lower a small amount - only about 1/4" - 1/2". You are actually flexing the upper ball joint by doing this, so be very conservative. If you have aftermarket uni-ball upper control arms, you don't need to do this step since it will droop further as it is.

Step 17 remove lower ball joint bolts

17) Remove the 4 large bolts that are around the lower ball joint. You'll see these if you put your head below the spindle. These are 14mm. It may require turning the steering slightly to get a socket to all 4 bolts.

Step 19
18) If you had to place a bottle jack above the upper arm, remove that jack now.

19) Pull the spindle further out. The axle will fall out of the hub/spindle assembly.

20) Place a drip container under this side of the front diff or ADD engagement tube. When the axle is removed, some gear lube usually comes out.

21) Use a large crowbar to pry the inner CV joint out of the front diff/ADD tube. You're prying against a snap ring at the end of the axle which flexes into a groove in the splines. It is often easier to access the front diff with a crowbar if the skidplate is removed. Aftermarket skidplates are more likely to get in the way here.

Step 21 (passenger side shown) Another view of step 21

Step 22 - pieces to transfer
22) With the entire half-shaft removed, there are 2 or 3 items you'll most likely need to transfer from the old axle to the replacement axle. Use a flathead screwdriver to gently pry these off. Use a rubber or plastic mallet to tap the dust shields back onto the other axle. Try not to bend them. Note the orientation of these seals before you remove them from the old axle. These "dust shields" ARE important to keep contaminants out and fluids or grease in. They definitely do more than their name implies.

Step 23 - grease and snap ring

23) Put a small amount of grease on the splines at both ends so it all goes back together easier. Also add a little bit of grease to the inner snap ring that'll go inside the diff.

24) Make sure the end of the axle that has that snap ring goes toward the diff. As you insert it into place, it greatly helps to rotate the snap ring so the open section is on top. Based on experience, this is just so that gravity works with you as the snap ring flexes into place. It has been repeatedly proven to go in easier this way for me.

25) Slide it into place as far as it'll go. Then place the crowbar on the end lip of the inner joint. Use a large hammer and hit it solidly for it to pop into place. Examine after every hit whether you have hit it hard enough to move into place. When you examine it, first try to push the inner joint by hand further into the diff, and then make sure it won't pull out. You might feel it slide in across about an inch of splines and you'll hear a click when you are successful. Do not continue hitting it after it is in place, since that could relocate the other surface of the inner dust/fluid seal, which could cause some fluid to leak later. After multiple unsuccessful hits to get the snap ring into place, take it out again and make sure the snap ring looks undamaged, is slightly greased, and the gap of the snap ring is still on top.

Step 25 looking down prybar at lip on inner joint Step 25 ready to hit it

Step 26
26) Make sure the outer CV and hub/spindle surfaces are clean from debris. If applicable with your type of hubs, make sure the needle bearings that are easily visible inside the spindle are clean, functioning, and have some grease on them. Then pivot the spindle around and insert the end of the axle into it.

Step 27 - threadlock required
27) Reinsert the 4 bolts around the lower ball joint. Toyota specifies 59 ft-lbs of torque for these. IMPORTANT: You MUST use a medium strength threadlock (typically blue) to keep these bolts from falling out. I've seen several stories where people didn't use threadlock even though they torqued them properly, only to have the spindle separate while driving and cause serious damage to the body or suspension. Any car parts store will carry medium strength threadlock. If you have the stock upper A-arms, it's simpler to re-insert the 4 bolts if you put the bottle jack between the upper ball joint and the fender well again. Just crank it down no more than half an inch.

28) If you have aftermarket manual hubs, skip to step 33. If you have the stock ADD/permanent hub flanges, continue to the next step.

29) Tighten the 35mm hub nut to 174 ft-lbs. Add the star-shaped lock cap and cotter pin to it.

30) Tap the black cover back into place.

31) Remount the wheel. Lower vehicle back onto the ground. Toyota specs the stock lug nuts to 83 ft-lb.

32) Reconnect the swaybar endlink. Remount the skidplates if they were removed. Congratulations, you're done!

33) If you have manual hubs, slide the splined washer into place on the end of the axle. Next add the snap ring. Be sure it locks into place in the groove. You'll need to push the axle from the back side to ensure it's all the way in place.

34) If your manual hub uses a gasket, use it. Reinstall the manual hub body and the 6 cone or lock washers, flat washers, and screws. Use a star pattern in tightening them. Aisin specs 23 ft-lbs for these 6 screws. Warn hubs should be similar.

35) Remount the wheel. Lower vehicle back onto the ground. Toyota specs the stock lug nuts to 83 ft-lb.

36) Reconnect the swaybar endlink. Remount the skidplates if they were removed. Congratulations, you're done!

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